Jackson County Opinions...

September 5, 2001



Column
By Mark Beardsley
The Commerce News
September 5, 2001

Email: Wasted Technology For Annoying Mail
Have you noticed how much time you spend dealing with email and how little of the email you receive or send has any value?
The amount of junk mail you used to receive in the heyday of direct mail is minuscule compared to the absolute garbage that comes to you via the Internet ­ and most of it from people who are friends or at least acquaintances.
Once again, technology provides a wonderful breakthrough only to be used in some innocuous way. It's as if after penicillin was discovered its primary use became to flavor pancake mix. We have a marvelous communication tool being employed largely to irritate friends and acquaintances.
Please understand; I love communicating via email with people with whom I have business, whether business business or personal business. I like the fact that you can email a letter to the editor or that I can send a scathing message to my least favorite politician without the investment of a stamp, paper and envelope. The speed with which you can communicate messages in times of need is wonderful.
But email has an insidious side. For example, you can send the same message to everyone in your address book with one click of the mouse. The result is that when a proud mom decides to email her mother about Junior's goal in soccer the day before, as often as not she assumes everyone in her address book, from family members she sees only at Christmas to former vice president Dan Quayle, would be appreciative of this knowledge. Voila! Instant junk email.
I recently received several days' worth of diary entries from a second cousin's walk on the Appalachian Trail, including fascinating tidbits like the supper menu, dinner conversation and sleeping accommodations from a family member with whom we normally have no correspondence.
Even worse are those with whom you may have legitimate correspondence who decide you need constant encouragement, enlightenment, amusement or inspiration and make it a point to forward to you anything they think fits that category. A daily bombardment of scripture may be someone's way of witnessing; to me it's an annoyance. There are too many people with nothing better to do than to create annoying email messages and attachments. I even had my column emailed to me once; at least it truly was inspiring.
If the subject line says, "This one's a keeper," that is reason enough to delete the file without opening it. In one day's mail at the office last week, I received two forwards from the same person, someone whose only previous contact had been a letter to the editor. One touted inspirational messages and the other 80 percent off on magazine subscriptions. Both had attachments; I opened neither. I was so inspired I took the time to call the sender and demand that no such trash be forwarded to me.
Email is a technological advance that makes communication quicker and easier. But if you have nothing to say, don't waste my time.
Feel free to email this to everyone in your address book.



Editorial
The Jackson Herald
September 5, 2001

City elections important for county
This year's elections to the various town councils in Jackson County could prove to be a turning point for the community. With nine incorporated towns, Jackson County has more than its share of local government. For many citizens, that's a good thing because our city governments are truly at the "grassroots" level.
On the other hand, we have long been dismayed by the lack of initive shown by some of our local town leaders. Because of a growing sales tax distribution, even our smallest towns now have a steady source of income.
But many of our towns have not spent those funds to improve the lives of their citizens. Instead, some towns have simply banked the money, or begun paying their local leaders a higher salary.
We hope that one of the issues candidates will discuss during this municipal election cycle is what projects they would like to see done to improve the lives of their citizens. Towns should not just exist for leaders, but rather because they provide a needed service or benefit.
In some cases, that discussion has never been held. Perhaps this election season it will be.

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Column
By Mike Buffington
The Jackson Herald
September 5, 2001

The 'New-New Math' has arrived
Those of us who were children of the 1960s will remember the phrase "New Math." Born out of the space race and the perceived lack of math skills in America, "New Math" was a hot topic among our parents whose own math background was rooted in more traditional concepts.
Now we have what some refer to as "New-New Math," or if you believe its critics, "fuzzy math."
If you are a parent of an elementary student in the Jefferson or Jackson County School System, you've probably gotten some idea that the math books your children are bringing home this year are different. Indeed, both school systems have adopted a New-New Math series this year entitled "Everyday Math" at the elementary school level.
In adopting that series, however, both systems find themselves in the middle of one of education's most controversial topics - what should math education in the lower grades look like?
Supporters of the New-New Math curriculums (called "constructivist" programs because they emphasize letting students construct their own solutions to math problems) say that the new teaching styles will reach more children, especially kids from disadvantaged backgrounds. Proponents also say that the New-New Math programs place greater emphasis on "higher-order thinking skills," or concepts, and that those skills are important to be successful on standardized testing. Finally, proponents say the new programs, which employ a variety of games, are more fun for the kids to learn than the old "drill-and-kill" math of the past.
But some critics of the New-New Math have been extremely vocal in their opposition to the program. Last year, The Wall Street Journal blasted New-New Math, including the "Everyday Math" series, in an editorial saying, "It will take its casualties, especially among the poor, adding to the already mounting costs of the decline in national educational standards."
Parents across the nation have also organized to fight New-New Math. In Fayette County, the school system abandoned "Everyday Math" earlier this year in favor of a more traditional series after several years of parent complaints. Parents in California, Texas, Illinois and New York have also been vocal against New-New Math programs in their local schools.
So what's the fuss over New-New Math all about?
Critics claim that these programs place too much emphasis on process rather than on mastering basic skills. In "Everyday Math," for example, students are taught several different ways of multiplying, but the program does not emphasize memorizing multiplication tables or the mastering of one method of multiplying large numbers.
A critic of the "Everyday Math" series in Fayette County wrote this about the lack of emphasis on basic skills: "It is far more reasonable to provide a strong foundational mathematical knowledge base to all students and supplement for problem solving, than to provide strong problem-solving techniques without first laying a strong foundation in the basics."
Another criticism of the program is its emphasis on "easy numbers." In a New York Times article about New-New Math, one parent said she "felt a lack of clarity" about her son's math class because of the emphasis on estimating rather than calculating specific answers. Instead of adding 71+19, for example, New-New Math would convert the numbers to a more "friendly" 70+20.
Other criticisms of "Everyday Math" include its endorsement of using calculators in the early grades and some non-math material (such as a question in one book: "If math were a color it would be _____ because _____.") In Georgia, some critics also say the "Everyday Math" series is not aligned correctly with the state QCC guidelines.
Because of the national scope of the New-New Math curriculums, a variety of groups have been created which urge a more fundamental approach to math education. The granddaddy of those groups is a website, www.mathematicallycorrect.com, where parents and educators can get access to volumes of research on math education issues, including reviews of specific textbook programs.
Reviews of the "Everyday Math" program for the second and fifth grades by that organization are critical of the series, saying the emphasis on basic skills is weak. While the review did praise the program in some areas, such as counting money, measurements and the multiplication of whole numbers in the second grade, it rejected the series "due to the lack of support for the mastery of central topics."
Locally, the reaction to the "Everyday Math" series has been muted, although some teachers have expressed reservations about the program. In the Jackson County School System, two teachers on the math curriculum adoption committee reportedly voted against the "Everyday Math" series, favoring a more traditional approach to math education.
While the truth about New-New Math is probably somewhere in the middle of the extreme views, it would not hurt for local parents and education leaders to have some discussion over how this series will be taught. Should the "Everyday Math" series be followed to the letter, including using calculators in the early grades, or should it be just one resource used to teach math in addition to parts of other, more traditional programs? In addition, how much time will teachers have to follow the "Everyday Math" program and also bring in other math material to supplement?
If the entire debate sounds similar to the "phonics vs. whole language" issue of a few years ago, it is. The New-New Math was called "Whole Math" until that phrase fell into disrepute during the Whole Language debate. The parameters of the two issues are similar: should schools focus on process, or should they stress basics? Can they do both successfully?
It may be called "New-New Math," but it's really just another part of an Old-Old Debate.
Mike Buffington is editor of The Jackson Herald.

 


Editorial
The Commerce News
September 5, 2001

Hypocritical, But Ban Video Poker Anyway
Hopefully, the General Assembly will ultimately ban video poker, but Georgia citizens ought to feel a little hypocritical as the state does its work.
We voters, after all, are the ones who opened the doors to legal gambling in Georgia when we implemented the state lottery. And while the lottery has paid for the tuition of countless Georgia college students, now the state finds itself in the position of protecting its own monopoly on legalized gambling.
One of the arguments ­ though not the best one ­ against the proposed ban of video poker games is that the people who enjoy gambling via video poker are not going to spend as much time playing the Georgia lottery. In other words, we want people to gamble as long as they gamble in the state's casino. Georgia lost the moral high ground in the argument against gambling when it entered into a racket in which the poor and ignorant are relieved of their money in the hope of getting rich quickly. That the proceeds go to arguably good causes of paying college tuition and a statewide pre-K program do not make state gambling virtuous.
Nonetheless, in spite of the hypocrisy, Georgia should ban video poker games. We've let the cat out of the bag with the lottery and aren't about to reverse that decision, so the best thing we can hope for is to keep legal gambling as restricted as possible for as long as possible. The cost of policing the industry and the damage it does to those who become addicted to the chance at easy money justify the state's action.

The Vacation Is Over
Now that President Bush is back from his nearly month-long vacation, hopefully he is well-rested, because the weeks ahead will prove challenging.
The president returns to Washington with members of Congress, who while back in their districts have heard the concerns of the faltering economy and declining consumer confidence. At the same time, the reduced revenues due to the slowdown and Bush's tax cut have left very little room for maneuvering in the budget. Virtually any new spending will have to be offset by cutting some other program.
But Bush, with limited backing from Congress and lukewarm public support, will have to work tirelessly to get the rest of his agenda approved. The president faces an education reform bill which has passed Congress but not in a form he likes. His proposed military reform has generated strong opposition from the military and from key congressional leaders. Bush's energy bill, which contains measures to allow drilling in environmentally sensitive areas, is a lightning rod for criticism, his proposal for faith-based initiatives got through the House but is in trouble in the Senate and Democrats are poised to attack his trade bill.
There are other items too, so Bush will have his work cut out for him. If he found the heat of his Texas ranch enjoyable, then he may be ready for the political heat his agenda will create in the weeks and months ahead. He may find it hotter in Washington in November than it was in Texas in August.


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